European cover art
|Developer(s)||SCE Cambridge Studio|
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Genre(s)||Action-adventure, hack and slash|
MediEvil is an action-adventure hack and slash video game developed by SCE Cambridge Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PlayStation. It was first released in Europe and North America on 1 October 1998 and in Japan on 17 June 1999. It was followed by a sequel, MediEvil 2, released in 2000, and a PlayStation Portable remake released in 2005 titled MediEvil: Resurrection. It was also re-released on the PlayStation Network in 2007. The game is set in the medieval Kingdom of Gallowmere and centres around the charlatan protagonist, Sir Daniel Fortesque, as he makes an attempt to stop antagonist Zarok's invasion of the kingdom whilst simultaneously redeeming himself.
Development began in 1995 at Millenium Interactive in Cambridge under the working title of "Dead Man Dan". The game's visuals are heavily influenced by Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Originally conceived as an arcade-style shooter for platforms such as Windows and the Sega Saturn, Sony's purchase of SCE Cambridge Studio evolved the game into a PlayStation title. The game received mostly positive praise from critics upon release, with praise including its blend of Halloween themed visuals but was criticised for its controls and cumbersome camera work.
The game takes place across a variety of levels, many of which require certain objectives to be performed to progress. Sir Daniel Fortesque can use a variety of weapons, consisting of close range weapons such as swords and clubs to long range weapons such as crossbows. Many of these weapons can be charged for a powerful attack and some weapons, such as the club, can be used to access areas that are otherwise inaccessible. When not possessing any items, Dan is able to rip his own arm off and use it for both melee and ranged attacks. Dan can equip a shield alongside weapons to defend against attacks; though they can only take several hits of damage before breaking. Throughout the game, Dan can visit gargoyle heads of two varieties; green ones offer Dan information while blue ones allow Dan to buy services or ammunition by using the treasures he finds.
Dan's health is determined by a single health bar, which reduces when Dan is hit. It will deplete completely if Dan drowns or falls from a great height. If Dan completely runs out of health, the game will end. Dan can extend his maximum health by collecting Life Bottles, which will automatically refill his health bar if it drops to zero. Also hidden throughout the game are Life Vials and Life Fountains that can replenish Dan's health and fill up any empty Life Bottles Dan has. In each level, there is a hidden Chalice of Souls, which can be collected if the player fills it with enough souls from defeated enemies (some Chalices are awarded via other means). If the player clears a level with a Chalice in hand, Dan is warped to the Hall of Heroes, where he can speak to a legendary hero who will give him rewards, such as weapons. If the player finishes the game with all the Chalices, the game's true ending is revealed.
In the year 1286, an evil sorcerer named Zarok plotted to take over the kingdom of Gallowmere with his undead army. It is told in legend that the champion, Sir Daniel Fortesque, led the King of Gallowmere's army to victory and managed to kill Zarok before he succumbed to his mortal wounds. In reality however, Dan was in fact struck down by the first arrow fired in the battle, with the king choosing to cover it up and declare Dan the "Hero of Gallowmere". Zarok, meanwhile, was forced into hiding and was presumed dead. 100 years later, in 1386, Zarok reappears, casting a spell over Gallowmere to awaken his undead army and steal the souls of the living. However, in the process, he unwittingly revives the corpse of Dan, who has over time become a skeletal corpse, missing his jaw and the eye he lost in the battle of Gallowmere. Having been unable to ascend to the Hall of Heroes due to his failures in life, Dan uses this opportunity to defeat Zarok, save Gallowmere and earn his place as a true hero.
As Dan travels across Gallowmere, fighting his way through Zarok's hordes and confronting all manners of beasts, he soon arrives at Zarok's lair, fighting off Zarok's skeletal warriors using the souls of his old allies retrieved by collecting the Chalices. After also managing to defeat Zarok's champion, Lord Kardok, Zarok turns into a powerful monster, but Dan manages to defeat him. As Zarok uses his last breath to cause his lair to collapse, Dan escapes and Zarok's magical influence over the land is thwarted, restoring the souls back to the living and putting the dead back to rest. With the magic cast on him also wearing off as a result, Dan returns to his burial chamber where he once again enters eternal slumber. If the player has managed to collect all the Chalices, Dan will ascend to the Hall of Heroes, where he is hailed as the rightful Hero of Gallowmere.
Development of MediEvil begun in 1995 at independent developer Millennium Interactive in Cambridge. Chris Sorrell, previously known for the James Pond series of games, created the original concept for MediEvil and served as the game's creative director.
According to Sorrell, the first design proposal for the game had the working title ‘Dead Man Dan’ and described a game that was initially a fusion of Capcom's Ghost'n Goblins combined with the art style of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. As development progressed, lead artist Jason Wilson pushed the game into more of a Zelda role playing game-influenced direction as opposed to the original arcade-style concept. Looking to attract a major publishing deal, Millennium Interactive initially began working on multiple platforms including Windows and the Sega Saturn before giving Sony of Europe a working demo of the game. Impressed by the progress, Sony signed MediEvil to be an exclusive PlayStation game and commissioned SCE Cambridge Studio as Sony's second studio in the United Kingdom, after Psygnosis.
SCE Cambridge wanted the game to possess a unique lead character, thus Sorrell worked with script doctor Martin Pond whilst creating an expansive backstory for the lead protagonist, Sir Daniel Fortesque. Pond came up with the idea that Sir Daniel could have been a pompous failure in life whose reincarnation was his one shot at redemption. This idea, along with the player-character's unusual appearance, turned appealing to some sectors of the gaming community, as lead designer Jason Wilson later recalled that female gamers considered Sir Daniel to be endearing, and was considered a sex symbol in France.
Sony's acquisition of SCE Cambridge helped ease financial strain on the project, but did not assist the studio's inexperience with making 3D games. Sorrell admitted in a retrospective interview that MediEvil presented "a mountain of challenges" due to the fact that, like many other developers at the time, were new to 3D gaming. He also admitted that some members of the team spent long nights without sleeping in order to finish the game on time. During development, the Cambridge team played beta versions of successful platformers such as Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot which helped them understand how they might solve some challenges in building a 3D action game for the first time.
Sony requested that MediEvil should support the (then) new PlayStation analogue controller, which Sorrell described as a "particularly fortuitous event" as it allowed them to capture much more fluidity and intuitiveness within the game. New concepts such as camera and character control presented many drawbacks and required the team to try out a number of approaches before settling on solutions that seemed to work. The team finally settled on the concept that MediEvil would support both analogue and digital camera-related controls for balance reasons. There were also many levels and ideas from the original concept that the team were forced to remove due to time or budget constraints. There was intended to be a platform-oriented section of the game where the player would control the worm that lived in Daniel's skull. Concept art and a separate level was created for this section, but it never materialised into the game.
30 second music sample from the MediEvil PlayStation game's final credits sequence
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The original soundtrack of the game was composed by Paul Arnold and Andrew Barnabas, the musical duo more commonly known as "Bob & Barn". SCE Cambridge instructed them to compose a Danny Elfman-influenced score, similar to those of Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Batman Returns. The music was created using electronic synthesizers to simulate an entire orchestra and organ. The 2005 PlayStation Portable re-imagining MediEvil: Resurrection used parts of the MediEvil score, along with original elements composed by Bob & Barn that was performed by a live orchestra and choir. An album was made from this music and signed copies can be purchased from the artists' website.
The game received positive reviews from critics upon release, later being re-released as a PlayStation Platinum title. It received an aggregate score of 80% from GameRankings and was mostly praised for its Halloween-influenced atmosphere by many critics. IGN's Chris Roper praised the game's sense of humour and unique presentation, but was skeptical concerning the game's "sloppy" controls, disjointed level designs and noted that the game's graphics did not age well overtime considering the PSP remake which offered superior graphics and gameplay. Despite this, Roper heralded it as "a fun game and one of PlayStation's classics". Game Revolution similarly praised the humour but criticised the game for being too straightforward and "easy to master", noting that the graphics and gameplay were slightly inferior to that of Banjo-Kazooie.
The music and atmosphere were the mostly praised aspects of the game. Many reviewers compared the visuals to be similar to Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Joe Fielder of GameSpot credited MediEvil for its original look and number of unique puzzles, but criticised the camera work, summarising that a "tighter camera control" would have been a necessity. Randy Nelson of IGN considered the game to be a homage to Capcom's Ghosts & Goblins, stating that the game took too many inspirations from others and not enough innovation was put into it to make it "unique". Nelson praised the environment of the game but considered the gameplay to be best suited for "a mindless hack-'n-slash romp".
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